Alison Griswold

The Power of a Story: Inspire[d] Summer Reading

A long time ago, while most of you were still watching Nick Jr., I was 22 and all the cool kids were watching this new show called Grey’s Anatomy. Because I wanted to know what the cool kids were talking about, I started watching it too.

It was certainly interesting. Young, hip intern doctors with good hair and great jaw-lines were doing rotations, diagnosing illness and saving lives to the greatest singer-songwriter soundtrack you could ask for. Plus, their dating lives were so… intense. They were getting together all over the place. And when I say “getting together” I do not mean within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I mean… well, you know what I mean.

I felt I could relate to these characters. They were young… I was young. They were dating… I was attempting to date. They were making out with gorgeous strangers in back alleys after work, I was….

Okay wait, I was NOT TRYING TO DO THAT… What had happened to my idea of a healthy relationship? I was a Catholic gal who wanted to date and marry a nice boy. And I had been to enough retreat dating workshops to know that hooking up with random strangers in supply closets was not exactly the path to my ultimate relationship goal of a man who would come with me to Mass and go on mission trips with me.

The stories I had been surrounding myself with had become my new normal. I had been doing nothing but watching random hook-ups on T.V., and as a result I was starting to think this was a great plan for finding a quality relationship.

This leads me to my present concern. See, I’ve been reading a bit of this “teen fiction” that is getting churned into movies almost before the authors close their MacBooks. Here’s my concern about the “Breaking-Twilight-Fault-In-Our-Divergent-Hunger-Games” genre.

There’s a lot of kissing and brooding and drama. There’s a lot of girls chasing boys. Granted, there are also noble gestures of friendship and sacrifice. These books do have entertaining dialogue and cute date ideas and when they get made into movies, they, too, have great singer-songwriter soundtracks. But I can’t help but notice that some of the storylines center heavily around characters getting together.

The stories we read shape our dreams, hopes, ideas and standards. That is why this summer, I’m going to challenge you to pick up some books that will inspire you with some real relationship goals. When I shut off Grey’s Anatomy, I didn’t just stare at wall. I went back to the stories that reminded me of the woman I wanted to become. I challenge you to find stories that inspire you to greatness — not just relationship drama. Read them with your mom, aunts or your girlfriends and talk about the decisions and lessons they contain.

When you read, ask yourself:

What are the virtues being modeled by these characters?

What lessons is this story teaching me about love?

Even if it’s not a religious book, is the story inspiring me to act in a way that glorifies God?

You can stop reading this blog right now and start hunting down some stories that will inspire. However, if you need a few suggestions to get you started, here is Auntie Alison’s list of books every girl should read and by read I mean read not just watch the movie although the movies are okay too:

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. There’s a moment in this book where Jane makes a decision, and the inner monologue she has while making this decision inspired me so much, I copied it out and posted it on my wall. The decision to do what is right—when your heart trying to tell you to just do what feels good—is a decision most woman will face many times in their life. Read Jane Eyre and be inspired by her resolve.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Sisterhood matters. And the sisters in Little Women go through the same trials and drama that any sisters (and by sisters I mean the ones related to you biologically and the ones you’re just so close to you might as well be blood relatives) encounter. They are not perfect, but the story of them trying to love each other perfectly will inspire you to keep trying to love, too.

Pride and Prejudice*, by Jane Austen. The story of how, throughout history, girls have been falling for the bad boys. But it’s also a story about wise women learning that honor, integrity (and large estates with beautiful gardens) are also attractive qualities in a suitor.

Virtue. Honor. Self-control. This summer, add some books to your reading list that go beyond contemporary teen drama. Read what your moms, grandmas and countless women (and men) have read to be inspired.

*If you choose to watch the movie Pride and Prejudice, watch the BBC version. This is an order, not a suggestion.

Categories: BooksMy Culture

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Alison Griswold

About the Author

I love being Catholic, coffee and buying shoes on sale. I'm afraid of catching things that are thrown at me, heights, and food on a stick. My first pet was a fish named Swimmy, whom my mother found creepy and flushed down the toilet when I was at school. She told me he died of natural causes.